Chennai: V.K. Sasikala was on Sunday named leader of the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) legislature party.
In a related move, Tamil Nadu chief minister O.Panneerselvam submitted his resignation letter to Sasikala, amid mounting speculation that J.Jayalalithaa’s close friend and confidant was set to become the next CM of Tamil Nadu.
As with other meetings of the party, the agenda was not been made public. But developments in the last few days led to mounting speculation that there might be a significant shift in the power.
Firstly, in a surprise move, former chief secretary Sheela Balakrishnan who was appointed by late chief minister J. Jayalalithaa as adviser to the Tamil Nadu government after her retirement in March 2014, quit from her post on Friday. Two others, K.N. Venkataramanan and A. Ramalingam, secretaries in the chief minister’s office, were removed from their posts.
Referring to Balakrishnan’s “abrupt exit”, opposition leader and the working president of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) M.K. Stalin on Saturday said that it signalled the beginning of a war between chief minister O. Panneerselvam and the AIADMK party leadership, causing instability in the working of the government.
Hours before these senior administrative changes in the state government, the ruling party made 23 new appointments, taking the number of office bearers in the AIADMK from 38 to 61. Former ministers K.A. Sengottaiyan, former Chennai Mayor Saidai S. Duraisamy and 11 others were appointed as AIADMK organising secretaries.
“The appointment of 13 more organizing secretaries along with the existing 10 will aid the party. However, it is also an indication to boost the support base for ‘Chinamma’ (Sasikala’s nickname),” said an AIADMK member.
Though Jayalalithaa’s trusted lieutenant Panneerselvam took charge as chief minister just two hours after her death on 5 December, senior AIADMK members have been urging Sasikala to over the reins of the party and government. On 29 December, Sasikala took over as general secretary of the party, a post that had been held by her close friend Jayalalithaa since 1989.
Although the ‘Sasikala for CM’ chorus has begun to grow louder, Stalin said that Panneerselvam should not worry about his post and instead focus his attention on people’s issues. During the assembly session last week, DMK members who objected to Sasikala being praised in the state legislature— she is not a legislator —did not attack the chief minister.
On Wednesday, senior DMK leader S. Duraimurugan told the state assembly that his party would lend its support to Panneerselvam and had no objections to him continuing as chief minister. He cautioned, “Beware of those around you. We won’t do any harm to you.”